Rowecord steel site takeover in Newport creates 120 jobs

The firm will spend £10m turning the plant into its first European base

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A firm has taken over the former Rowecord steel site in Newport, creating 120 new jobs.

AIC Steel Group will make the 28,000sq m (300,000sq ft) plant on Usk Way its UK manufacturing hub.

Rowecord, which built the roof of the Olympic aquatic centre in London, went into administration in April 2013, making 430 people redundant and owing £24m to creditors.

A number of its former employees have already been recruited by AIC Steel.

Analysis

We often hear in Wales that there's a shortage of skills in the workforce and that it's cheaper to manufacture elsewhere especially when goods are being sold abroad.

That's true - which has led business leaders to argue the country needs to improve its skill levels in order to produce high quality products that can't be easily and cheaply made elsewhere.

The significance of the AIC Steel Group setting up its first European base in Newport is that it's identified it as an area with a highly skilled workforce who can make top quality products that the company can sell across the globe.

We shouldn't underestimate the comment from AIC Steel UK's chief executive Michael Treacy that "Made in Wales" is a strong manufacturing brand in export markets.

The 120 new jobs offers hope to some of those who lost theirs when Rowecord collapsed last year.

It also offers potential work to those who are under threat at Newport's Orb Electrical Steelworks.

On top of that, it's a general boost to a city that's had a some bad news on jobs recently.

It's perhaps also a glimmer of hope for a steel industry that's been particularly badly hit by the global economic crisis.

About 18,000 tons of structural steel will be made every year at the plant for the company, which built the Kingdom Tower and Medina Airport, both in Saudi Arabia.

AIC Steel UK chief executive officer Michael Treacy said the firm chose Newport because of its history of heavy industry, skilled workforce and good transport links to London.

"There is a good supplier infrastructure in south Wales that we can tap into, and the port will be integral to our export activity," he said.

"We believe that 'Made in Wales' is a strong manufacturing brand in export markets and we have a strong, award-winning senior team in place to help drive growth," he added.

'Vote of confidence'

Former Rowecord worker Mark Thorpe, 37, of Pontymister, is one of those who has been re-employed at his old workplace.

He said: "I loved my job so when I was made redundant it was a real blow.

"It has been a stressful year, so I was delighted to be offered a role now that the site is under new management.

"It's very exciting to see the old place come back to life and it's great to be back," he added.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart welcomed the arrival of AIC Steel in Wales.

"This is great news for Newport and a vote of confidence for the Welsh steel industry," she said.

"It is particularly pleasing to hear the company has already recruited former Rowecord workers for some of the 120 new jobs to be created at the plant."

Administrators for Rowecord, which was the biggest steel contractor in Wales, blamed its collapse on the loss of money on contracts and the general economic climate.

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